History’s longest reshuffle is finally due to end on Friday, as Liz Truss confirms the final handful of new ministers and whips who will join her administration.
It is 17 days since the process of appointing ministers began, with the Prime Minister’s deputy Therese Coffey the very first name to be confirmed. Ms Truss can hardly be blamed for the delay, which is largely due to the 11-day national mourning period which intervened after the Queen’s death.
Some of the most drastic decisions – such as pushing Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab to the back benches – were expected long before the new Prime Minister was in place.
But as the ministerial line-up has taken shape, other trends have become apparent which give clues as to how Ms Truss will run her administration.
The most striking move has been the elimination of nearly all of Mr Sunak’s supporters from the Government. Widely respected ministers such as Grant Shapps, Steve Barclay, George Eustice and Simon Hart are all out – with the only Sunak backers in the Cabinet being Robert Buckland, who switched support to Ms Truss halfway through, and Michael Ellis in the relatively low-profile role of Attorney General. One small sop was the appointment of Ms Sunak’s close friend Robert Jenrick as a health minister – although he is said to have been hand-picked by Ms Coffey.
Equally, some of Boris Johnson’s greatest allies have been excluded. Former Home Secretary Priti Patel, Nigel Adams, previously the Cabinet Office minister, and ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries have returned to the back benches. They join “big beasts” such as Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt who could easily cause trouble if things start going wrong.
But Mr Truss is clearly alive to the dangers of a possible awkward squad. As well as giving jobs to nearly all her leadership rivals, she has signed up the likes of Steve Baker, Damian Collins, Nusrat Ghani, Jesse Norman and Jake Berry – experienced operators with close ties to the media who have always been good at making trouble for previous Conservative leaders when they wished. Ministerial office will keep them quiet, at least for now.
One eye-catching clutch of appointments shows the Prime Minister knows the importance of creating a “pipeline” of ministerial talent for the future. Not only did she give a top job to Kemi Badenoch, the new International Trade Secretary, she also asked Neil O’Brien, Alex Burghart, Lee Rowley and Julia Lopez to join her Government.
The five ministers, aged between 38 and 45, resigned and denounced Boris Johnson with a joint letter, then worked together on Mrs Badenoch’s leadership campaign. If, as many expect, she is a future Tory leader – the next contest could well be between her and Suella Braverman, the ultra-Brexiteer who is now Home Secretary – the four others would surely form the core of her Cabinet.
Finally, Ms Truss has given a group of MPs first elected in 2019 their first opportunity to be ministers. Some of these are relatively older figures with a successful business background such as new Treasury ministers Andrew Griffith and Felicity Buchan, or justice minister Rob Butler. But, in a calculated gamble, she has also appointed colourful younger MPs with a reputation for making a splash in the media – Brendon Clarke-Smith, Dehenna Davidson, Jacob Young and Jonathan Gullis – to form a new face for the Tory party.